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Abhas versus Kishore — An Existential Reality (Part 1)

August 4, 2022 | By

Abhas turned Kishore midway. Abhas is a felt intangibility, a suggestion from within – something not material.  Kishore is one who is young, energetic, exuberant, visible, impactful.  Vijay Kumar explores the phenomenon that was Kishore Kumar in a two part essay. Silhouette presents the first part today as a tribute to the legend on his birth anniversary.

Kishore Kumar

Kishore Kumar

Abhas and Kishore.  The essence and the form. The inner being and the persona.

Abhas turned Kishore midway. Abhas is a felt intangibility, a suggestion from within – something not material.  Kishore is one who is young, energetic, exuberant, visible, impactful.  Abhas chose to become Kishore and the result was Main hoon jhum-jhum-jhum-jhum jhumroo, Eena meena deeka, Nakhrewali, Zaroorat hai zaroorat hai. But Kishore often travelled within — or perhaps that travel within was by default, to discover Abhas — his inner being, his natural point of poise. The result was Koi lauta de mere beete huye din, Panthi hoon main us path ka, Jin raaton ki bhor nahi, Zindagi ka safar… all alluding to an irresistible urge to revert to the non-material, to the spiritual, to be one with nature — to something missed out in the journey of life — the Abhas!

But was there an existential dichotomy in what he was?  The whole world knew that Kishore was obsessed with money, would often count his cash as a pastime, and would have no compunction in leaving the shooting if his payment was delayed. But the same Kishore swung to the other extreme, like a pendulum, as he became or perhaps feigned to be an ascetic, perched at a hillock near Badrinath, incognito.

If one looks earnestly at his life as it unfolded, it will be difficult to miss out that the split within him was unignorable. Putting a signboard ‘Beware of Kishore’ outside his bungalow in Bombay; or naming his home at Khandwa, a Mental Hospital; or placing skulls and bones in his living room to drive away the unwanted visitors — were Abhas and Kishore the names of the two alter egos of the same character, that became shorthand for the exhibition of wildly contradictory behaviour, especially between private and public selves? The spiritualist in him was as real as the materialist!  And so were the recluse and the showman in him.

Main hoon jhum-jhum-jhum-jhum jhumroo
Koi humdum na raha, koi sahara na raha….
(Jhumroo, 1961) Kishore Kumar / Majrooh Sultanpuri

Kishore’s behavioural conundrum gets an echo in the Churchillian idiom:  a mystery, wrapped in a riddle, inside an enigma. But these existential contradictions notwithstanding, he was a prodigal child, a phenomenon, incomparable and most importantly loved by the legions of his followers as he sang, irrespective of whether he was Kishore or Abhas. It is thus no coincidence that the free-of-any-care, rooted in his aloneness, Kishore in Jhum-jhum-jhum-jhum jhumroo is as acceptable as in that exceptional ode to loneliness in Koi humdum na raha, koi sahara na raha. The former enthralls and the latter emotes…Kishore squarely existed in these two extremes.

koi humdum na raha

Koi humdum na raha (Kishore Kumar in Jhumroo)

Interestingly, the two songs remain as contemporary now as at the time they were composed.  The raciness of jhum-jhum…so perfectly finds a poise in the deep meandering of koi humdum.  Kishore benchmarked the yodel in jhum-jhum. I wonder if this song will qualify as RAP. Even if it does, it will still not be the first. Kishore’s Eena, meena, deeka (from Asha) preceded it by four years.  Kishore’s yodel was not linear or single-track.  He could nuance it to be in sync with the song’s sentiment.  The muse of an expectant heart, Thandi hawa ye chandani suhani….tapers off with a yodel that is different and also enriching.

Koi humdum na raha — what is remarkable about this number is that despite its intense craving for complementarity, and its gripping melancholia, it still rejuvenates, it does not put one down.  It is the magic of Kishore-Majrooh fusion.

Kishore and His Women

Kishore married four times. It is said that all of the four women genuinely loved him. True, I guess, for Kishore was irresistibly different. One of them was remarkable — a woman with a hole in her heart — the Venus of Bollywood, Madhubala!  Perhaps that was destined. Venus was the most prominent planet in Kishore’s horoscope.  But Kishore was essentially a loner, the one who loved to be at home un-intruded and genuinely believed that his woman remained at home than professionally occupied. Such was the array of his planets. Yet Kishore’s abiding interest in women that gave him four wives was at variance with his being a loner.  Thus his relationships, somewhat in disjoint with his innate nature, added to his enigmatic image.  It was this disjoint that psyched him into believing that he was unloved, that he did not meet his perfect foil.

The following three songs, each featuring Kishore, allude, even if coincidentally, to Kishore’s unpredictability as to his demeanour while handling the other sex.

Hum to mohabbet karega
(Dilli ka Thug, 1958) Ravi / Majrooh Sultanpuri

Kishore: Hum to mohabbat karega
duniya se nahin darega
chaahe ye zamana kahe hum ko deewana
aji hum to mohabbat karega

chupke se aap to dil leke chale jaaten hain
peechhe peechhe deewane phir bhi chale aaten hain

Nutan: meri jooti se!

Kishore: joota paalish karega
lekin tum par marega
chaahe ye zamana kahe…

thokar se aur bhi
armaan ye javaan hote hain
duniya mein hum jaise
aashiq bhi kahan hote hain

Nutan: are vaah re, Majnu!

Kishore: Laila Laila karega
thandi aahein bharega
chaahe ye zamana kahe…

Door ho ho ke aji
yun na sataao ham ko
Hum jeeyen kaise bhala
ye to bataao hum ko

Nutan: doob maro

Kishore: doobegaa nahin tairega
pyaar se hum nahin darega
chaahe ye zamana kahe………

Kishore, on screen, dares the world as he pursues and courts his love-interest, the beauteous Nutan. He asserts that he will turn, if that be required to secure her love, a shoeshine boy, a majnu reincarnate, or even drown himself and yet remain afloat (in love).  I have read that Kishore in fact went this extra mile to win over Leena Chandavarkar — to get married the fourth time.

Zaroorat hai zaroorat hai
(Man-Mauji, 1962) Madan Mohan / Rajinder Krishan

Zaroorat hai sakht zaroorat hai
zaroorat hai zaroorat hai zaroorat hai
Ik shrimati ki kalavati ki seva karey jo pati ki

Haseen hazaron bhi ho khade
magar usi par nazar padhey
woh zulf gaalon se khelti
ke jaise din raat se ladey

Adaon mein bahar ho, nigahon mein khumaar ho
qubul mera pyar ho to kya baat hai

Itar me sanse basi basi
woh mastiyon me rasi rasi

Dharaj palke jhuki jhuki
bhanve ghaneri kasi kasi

Phoolon me gulab ho khud apna jawab ho
woh pyar ki kitaab ho to kya baat hai

Madan Mohan and Kishore Kumar

Madan Mohan and Kishore Kumar

A song of a different mood generally not associated with Madan Mohan composed for a singer. Yes, I am referring to the matrimonial advertisement that Madan Mohan composed for Kishore Kumar,  with a text penned by Rajinder Krishan so thoughtfully. It is an advertisement that will enthuse and whet the appetite of eligible bachelors of all times and climes.  I guess, a girl of this description is what Kishore dreamt of as his soul mate —  a Maneka  with the virtuosity of Seeta!

I summarise the advertisement for the appreciation of the impatient young of the latest generation.  She should be numero uno in a beauty pageant, should be the ultimate Fair & Lovely girl. Her amble should create a Mexican wave. She should have a body fragrance that intoxicates and overwhelms. And she yet must swoon over the aspirant in an unflinching love and absolute commitment!

Hasrat hi rahi, humse bhi kabhi koi pyaar karta, koi pyaar karta
(Bombay ka Chor, 1962) Ravi / Rajinder Krishan

Hasrat hi rahi,
humse bhi kabhi koi pyaar karta,
koi pyaar karta

Koi dil pe hamaare bhi meethi nazar,
ek baar karta,
koi pyaar karta

Nikle thhe hum dil ki jholi liye,
duniya ne kante hi kaante diye
itne to bure na thhe,
humse nazar koi chaar karta, koi pyaar karta…

Duniya mein kya kya na mele rahe,
hum thhe akele akele rahe
Dil rakhte thhe hum,
humko bhi koi dildaar karta, koi pyaar karta

Maangi thi humne khudaai kahaan,
thokar pe thokar mili jo yahaan
Kya jaata agar koi dil ka nagar gulzaar karta, koi pyaar karta

Taken dehors its cinematic context, the quasi lament in this song seems a logical petering out of the cockish exuberance and outreach in zaroorat hai… in which the aspirant will not settle for anything less than a Menaka who will also be expected to endure an agnipariksha for chastity.  I love the two songs.  Hats off to Rajinder Krishan’s versatility, and of course to Kishore’s singing. Zaroorat hai, zaroorat hai and Hasrat hi rahi appear as sequel songs.

The poem, rendered brilliantly by Kishore in tad muffled vocals responsive to its sentiments and, apparently a light hearted entertainer, has yet another layer to it.  It articulates a societal reality of its times of sixties and seventies — when a large number of middle class young men did not get an empathizing chord to their yearning for love — the society was so much regimented in terms of HE and SHE. Love relationships were largely post marriage and with respective wives / husbands.

But could this be metaphorical of an unfulfilled Abhas — the spirit yet awaiting to be complemented ?

Kishore – A Payment Paranoid

Kishore was paranoid about his not being paid. On one such occasion when he came to know that he was not being paid fully, he visited the set with make up on only one side of his face. When the director asked him, he replied, aadha paisa to aadha make up.  On another occasion when a producer named  RC Talwar did not pay his due, Kishore reached his residence shouting, Hey talwar de de mere aath hazar every morning until Talwar paid up.

This behavioral streak in Kishore, apparently abnormal, found a beautiful expression in the timeless duet Paanch rupaiah barah aana. This small amount that Renu owes to Manu tethers the soar and sweep of this song. SD Burman, and Majrooh more with his words, created a stage for Kishore to showcase his histrionic versatility. His adaptation of Burman Dada’s voice in Dheere se jana bagiyan mein and that of KC Dey in Teri gathari mei laga chor is a revelation.

Writer Gajendra Gaur, Director Phani Majumdar, Madhubala And Kishore Kumar (Pic courtesy: Twitter)

Paanch rupaiah barah aana
(Chalti ka Naam Gaadi, 1958) SD Burman / Majrooh Sultanpuri

Majrooh is often two-layered in his lyrics. Prima-facie superficial. But scratch the surface to discover an amazing depth or rather ingenuity or out of the box thinking. Just consider the mukhda here :

Main sitaron ka tarana
main baharon ka fasana
Leke ik angarayi, mujh pe
daal nazar ban ja deewana

Angarayi. This is a specific physical posture. Hands stretched up over head with palms clasped; the torso taut and a tad bent backwards with bosom little protruding.  In fact, each sinew of the body stretched and alive as if in anticipation of some action!

Angarayi is, however, associated with a woman and has a feminine character.  Its use for a man is  an aberration.  A woman’s angarayi in the presence of a man signifies her shedding the inhibition that is part of her by default!  That she is at ease with the man there and will not be averse to his advances! A beauty peagant participant often punctuates her cat walk with an ‘invitational‘ angarayi.

But why is Majrooh expecting Manu, his man, to indulge in an angarayi? Leke ek angarayi, mujh pe daal nazar ban ja deewana! Consider the preceding lines Main sitaron ka tarana, main baharon ka fasana. Me, the celestial song; me, the flourish of the season. However what Majrooh has not said but remains implied is ‘I am the nymph on offer on a platter!’  And it connects to: Leke ik angarayi  — shed your inhibition Manu —  ban ja deewana —  be subsumed in my love!  Majrooh, Majrooh, Majrooh all the way!

It was left to another genius Gulzar to use the word angarayi about forty years after: Meri angarayi na toote tu aaja… kajrare, kajrare…Here the woman is expecting her man to hurry before she is out of her state of submission — the angarayi!

Majrooh, however, brings down the Menaka (call her Venus if you so wish) to ground, to the brass-tacks as her man Manu seeks a level playing field — the first settlement of payment due to him  before he undergoes metamorphoses of various kind.

I have no clue whether Kishore’s handling of Talwar inspired this song or whether  it was the other way around.  Be that as it may, the creative synergy of Kishore, Madhu, Majrooh and SDB gave us a song extraordinary.

Kishore’s Persona – In His Own Words

Was there anything in Kishore that overarched his apparent behavioural conundrum? The following snippet from his interview with Pritish Nandy is candid on the point:

Look, I don’t smoke, drink or socialize.  I never go to parties, If that makes me a loner, fine.  I am happy this way.  I go to work and come back straight home. To watch my horror movies, play with my spooks, talk to my trees, sing.  In this avaricious world, every  creative person is bound to be lonely.  How can you deny me that right ?

He had had none of the normal addictions. He seemed loathe to parties considered necessary to keep one afloat in the tinsel world. He was, by implication, not insecure professionally. But horror movies, his spooks, his trees…; each of us has a child within hibernating, irrespective of age. But Abhas in Kishore ever remained alive and kicking. He looked to the horrors in the movies, and spooks, as if of real, like a child. He believed in his plants.

Abhas versus Kishore was an existential reality. Singing though was a connecting common denominator.  However, he was unmistakably assertive as he offered justification for his being lonely, that every creative person was bound to be lonely. This almost reminds me of Jonathan Livingston Seagull who was in the creative orbit of his own, perfecting his art and skill, and was a loner therefore! But when Kishore alluded ‘right’ to his being a loner, one could discern a fiercely indomitable spirit in him.

Kishore Kumar Salil Chowdhury

Kishore Kumar recording a song with Salil Chowdhury as Shailendra and Cawas Lord look on. (Pic: Facebook)

Banned on Vividh Bharati

It was mid-seventies, the days of Emergency, a reign of terror stood unleashed, the voices of reason were throttled, men and women considered of some consequence and perceived adversarial were jailed. No opposition to the power was brooked. Speech was fraught with trouble, silence was gold. It was in these scary times that Vividh Bharati, a government owned channel that played Hindi film music, emerged as a relief of sorts. But one day the voice that cheered the most — of Kishore — was off the air. Initially, people at large took it for a passing omission. But soon it dawned that he was banned from the government owned channels as he had refused to endorse the PM’s Twenty Point Programme. Even his duets were banned.

Kishore had taken on the mightiest. The consequences could have been more serious than his ban on AIR. But it speaks of the character of this man – fiercely independent, fearless. I vividly remember that without him, Vividh Bharati significantly lost out on popularity – in the times now, it would have been called loss of TRP. 

But one day, as I was taking bath, suddenly and unbelievably, something in the form of a song, that I had waited for two years, melted in my ears. The transistor outside was airing a Kishore song. It was no less than a Eureka moment! I, in any case, I loved that song. But it suddenly acquired a definite context, sounded all the sweeter.  The song was from the film Julie (1975) Dil kya kare, jab kisi ko kisi se pyaar ho jaaye…..

Dil kya kare
(Julie, 1975) Rajesh Roshan / Anand Bakshi

Stand-off with Amitabh

A few years down the line, he took on another titan – the don Amitabh Bachchan.  Kishore had requested Bachchan to make a guest appearance in his proposed film Mamta Ki Chhavn Mein.  Amitabh did not oblige.  An aggrieved Kishore refused to sing for him and left the superstar to rely upon Shabbir Kumar.

Manzilen apni jagah hain
(Sharaabi) Bappi Lahiri / Anjaan

This Amitabh-Kishore stand-off created a problem of sorts for Prakash Mehra. He knew that his film on anvil – Sharaabi – would be at risk without Kishore.  Assumably, as a desperate way out, he made his trusted and regular music directors namely Kalyanji Anandji to sit out and brought in Bappi Lahiri instead. Prakash knew Kishore and Bappi were close – Kishore was his Mama. He succeeded in persuading Kishore to sing for Sharaabi. Kishore delivered five songs – perhaps the best album of the year 1984.  Each one a smashing hit Mujhe naulakha manga de, Jahan char yaar, De de pyar de, Inteha ho gayi intezar ki.  But my favourite is Manzilen Apni Jagah……..

This is one of the best of Kishore. He seems to be living the undulating sentiments of this song so effortlessly.  And on-screen Kishore is subsumed in Amitabh.  There is absolutely no dichotomy. The song has an ascending simmer. It does not have the pace of Inteha ho gayi or Jahaan char yaar mil jaaye. But it flows like a boat sailing at a soothing pace. I am not sure, who supplied the words – Prakash Mehra or Anjaan – but they emote, they bring out the pain and pine of the one just separated from his lover.

Spooks and Spirits

Mere mehboob qayamat hogi
(Mr. X in Bombay, 1964) Laxmikant-Pyarelal / Anand Bakshi

‘To watch my horror movies, play with my spooks...’ did Kishore fancy the weird, the grotesque? Was supernatural more than a notion for him? Human bones and illuminated skulls adorned his living room. Normally, skull with holes for the eyes and a hollow for the mouth must be a hideous sight. But for Kishore, these remains of the dead were integral to his ambience at home. I wonder if he ever thought of making a ghost-centric film.  He sure was the hero of the film namely Mr. X in Bombay. He must have enjoyed his occasional invisibility in the film that accrued to him on taking a ‘magical’ decoction. The concept was adapted with much greater success in the later day film Mr India.

For me however, Mr. X in Bombay is limited to that amazing number Mere mehboob qayamat hogi…so soulfully rendered by Kishore.

Continue to read…

Abhas versus Kishore — An Existential Reality (Part 2)

More to read

Kishore Kumar The Actor: A Legend’s Journey Down the Years Part 1

Kishore Kumar, The Master of his Craft – Amit Kumar Remembers his ‘Baba’

Manna Dey: A Story of Amazing Versatility – Part 1

Suraiya: The Last Singing Star of Indian Cinema


Creative Writing

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Born in 1950, Vijay Kumar’s ancestral roots were in Uttar Pradesh. He took early schooling in Ludhiana, Punjab; secondary school and college education in Kanpur; a post-graduate in Statistics, and much later, obtained a law degree from the Delhi University. A government job brought him to Delhi, where he had the opportunity to handle national policies on education and culture. His last professional engagement was in the Ministry of Tourism, where he was the Director, heading the division responsible for the promotion of education and skills specific to the tourism sector. Vijay Kumar is a recipient of the National Hospitality Education Award 2011-12, in recognition of his contribution towards skill development initiatives for the tourism and hospitality sector. His early childhood was shaped by a familial milieu that was quasi rural, with songs and music for every occasion. His mother had a good memory for Kabir and Tulsidas and she recited them. This music sensitization mutated into a love for the Hindi film music as he grew.
All Posts of Vijay Kumar

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2 thoughts on “Abhas versus Kishore — An Existential Reality (Part 1)

  • Rachna Rajesh

    Such a fascinating read .. There’s very little about Kishore that’s not been written or said before . But this brought in such a different and intriguing perspective .

  • Silhouette Magazine

    Some of the comments received on this article on Facebook:

    Nina Vijaykumar: Beautiful write up Sir.

    Gaurav Sahay: At last you could do a write up on KK which perhaps you were contemplating for long. Moreover in two parts it will keep the readers curious and on edge. I am feeling excited. Will be submitting once I finish reading it.

    Mahesh Arora: Wah wah wah!! Three cheers for vijay for penning down such an informative and thoroughly researched essay. It made a reading which gave lot of pleasure and refreshed our childhood memories. Waiting curiously the next instalment of essay. Keep it up, Vijay !🙏🙏

    Saloni Srivastava: Enjoyed the read…

    Mohan Ranganathan: Painstakingly researched sum up.

    Roop Krishen Bhat: congratulations
    he was a heart throb of millions..
    the great kishor kumar

    Dilip Apte: Simply awesome read Vijay Kumar . Waiting for the sequel

    MV Krishnan: Super write-up

    Vineeth Abraham: Wow. That was some read. And more to come. Just brilliant.

    Meenakshi Mehta: So engrossing! Waiting for the second part 😊

    Sanjay Srivastava: Congratulations.. beautiful write up as usual

    Saroj Kapur: Fantastic write up

    Samar Bandyopadhyay: Keshav alias Vijay is superb as usual! Once you have to perforce stop reading one of his essays, you simply cannot but help pick up and devour the fare! Wait eagerly for the next part.

    Pisharoty Chandran: Enjoyed your essay, Vijay Kumar. Your ‘prodigal child’ usage could be extended as ‘Prodigal prodigy’, I feel.
    Wonder what Cawas was upto on a typewriter, at a recording. Special effects?

    Devendra Prasad: आ चल के तुझे मैं ले के चलूं
    एक ऐसे गगन के तले
    जहां गम भी न हो
    आंसू भी न हो
    बस प्यार ही प्यार पले
    एक ऐसे गगन के तले ।

    Sunil Chadha: An extremely beautiful and flawless writing and what a tribute to Great Kishore Kumar. Vijayji the story and screenplay of Mr. X in Bombay was written by my Chachaji R. P. Ashq ( Ram Parkash Chadha) but you are so correct the film didn’t do well at all and the film was limited to This song of Kishore Kumar written by AnandvBakshiji. Thanks a lot for this beautiful article.

    Andy Dewan: Thorough like always

    Ravindra Nath Shrivastava: एक नये दृष्टिकोण से लिखा गया आलेख 👍

    Monica Kar: Wow, Vijayji, You were the right person to delve into this existential dichotomy or enigma, whatever you may call it, called Kishore Kumar! What an engrossing read this is! Not only do you unravel some bits of the genius that made him who he was, there are laurels for Rajinder Krishan, Majrooh and Gulzar too! Vijay ji, I don’t think I’ve ever heard/read the ‘angdaayi’ analyzed like this before! Just fabulous! I would love to quote the bits that happily stunned me or enamored me but that would make my comment way too long! I’m excited about Part 2, now! Soon, I hope! I think it would be fair to say that you have changed the way I will hear Kishore Kumar from now, forever! 👏👌🙏😊.

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